Zika Breaking News

Zika breaking news brought to you by Zika News.

May 24, 2021 • 2:39 pm CDT

A recent study published by The Lancet found that since 2015, the emergence of epidemic Zika virus transmission has been linked to unparalleled reports of serious neurological disorders and devastating congenital disabilities such as microcephaly and other congenital malformations.

Despite low transmission rates in the past 3 years, the emergence of new Zika outbreaks remains a looming threat.

Of particular concern to health authorities worldwide is the possibility of multiple flavivirus outbreaks, as Zika became endemic in the same regions as dengue viruses.

The great paradox in dengue infections is a well-known example: one previous dengue exposure does not protect subsequent infection by a different serotype. But instead, it increases the risk for the development of severe dengue disease.

This understanding has engendered justified caution and the development of tetravalent dengue vaccines.

As viable Zika and dengue vaccines are made, it becomes crucial to understand how Zika and dengue immune interactions will affect subsequent flavivirus outbreaks and the use of Zika and dengue vaccines, concluded these researchers on May 18, 2021.

May 19, 2021 • 2:09 pm CDT

More and more people are getting involved in the surveillance of invasive mosquito species, not just professionals with formal training in entomology. There are many taxonomic keys available for identifying mosquitoes of medical and veterinary importance.

A new version of MosKeyTool, the interactive identification key for identifying mosquitoes, is available. This innovative identification tool was developed by the medical entomology working group (WP3) of MediLabSecure in 2017.

This novel interactive key includes 132 mosquito species in 70 countries (Euro-Mediterranean, Black Sea, and Western Palaearctic Regions) and can be easily installed on your computer.

The MosKeyTool targets are two stages: adult female and 4th stage larva.

The reference area of MosKeyTool is the western Palearctic biogeographic region, including Europe, Atlantic, and Mediterranean Islands, Northern Africa, South Caucasus, and part of the Middle East. Most of the time, the countries are used as a geographical unit. However, the main islands or isolated archipelago are also used as a geographic unit.

MosKeyTool can be used as supporting material for self-learning and teaching the morphology, taxonomy, and systematics of mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae).

Additionally, maps published by the European CDC as of March 31, 2021, show the current distribution of invasive mosquito species at the ‘regional’ administrative unit level.

Separate maps for the distribution of each of the following exotic mosquito species are currently available:  Aedes aegypti, Aedes albopictus, Aedes japonicus, Aedes atropalpus, and Aedes koreicus.

The U.S. CDC publishes various diseases caused by various mosquitoes, such as Zika, Yellow Fever, Chikungunya, and West Nile.

May 14, 2021 • 10:36 am CDT

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) urges early detection of congenital disabilities and continuous support and care to newborns and their families. In Latin America and the Caribbean, approximately 1 in 5 deaths during the first 28 days of life are due to congenital disabilities.

The anomalies, which can be structural or functional, occur during gestation. The most common and serious are congenital heart defects, neural tube defects, and chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome. 

In 2016, Congenital Zika Syndrome was added to the list of congenital defects.

Zika can cause microcephaly, a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected compared to babies of the same sex and age. Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly, says the U.S. CDC.

"Congenital defects are today one of the main causes of death of newborns in the region. However, they are mostly preventable," said Dr. Pablo Duran, regional advisor for PAHO's Latin American Center for Perinatology/Women’s Health and Reproductive Health (CLAP).

"In order not to leave any child behind, it is essential to have timely and quality information on these anomalies in all countries," he said in a press statement.

The recent publication, “Present and Future of Birth Defects Surveillance in the Americas,” produced by PAHO and the World Bank with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), indicates that it is fundamental for countries to have a birth defects surveillance system.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela have a birth defects surveillance system. 

PAHO has been working for years to raise awareness of the problem and implement surveillance actions in the health and government sectors. However, there is still a long way to go. 

PAHO's CLAP is collaborating with creating a regional registry of congenital defects using reports from the countries' surveillance systems.

"Preventing children from dying and ensuring that they thrive is our priority,” said Dr. Duran. “Birth defects account for a significant proportion of neonatal deaths in the region, and we must do more to prevent them." 

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May 14, 2021 • 9:56 am CDT

Previously, the U.S. FDA requires blood establishments to test blood donations for new or emerging infectious agents that may affect blood product safety if certain conditions are outlined in FDA regulations.

Specifically, if a transfusion-transmitted infection “may have sufficient incidence and/or prevalence to affect the potential donor population” and meets certain other criteria described in FDA’s regulations, then FDA may determine the transfusion-transmitted infection is a “relevant transfusion-transmitted infection” (RTTI).

Effective on May 13, 2021, the FDA has determined Zika virus (ZIKV) is no longer an RTTI under FDA’s regulations.

As discussed further below, the available evidence demonstrates that ZIKV no longer has sufficient incidence and/or prevalence to affect the potential donor population.  Accordingly, FDA withdrew the guidance titled, “Revised Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of Zika Virus Transmission by Blood and Blood Components,” dated July 2018. 

Because ZIKV is no longer an RTTI, blood establishments may discontinue testing for ZIKV. 

Licensed blood establishments that discontinue testing blood donations for ZIKV must report this change to FDA in the annual report under 21 CFR 601.12(d), noting the date testing was discontinued. Corresponding changes to the circular of information must also be reported in the annual report under 21 CFR 601.12(d).

As of April 1, 2021, the U.S. CDC reported zero (0) cases of Zika in the USA during 2021. However, Puerto Rico has confirmed seven (7) locally transmitted Zika cases in 2021.

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May 11, 2021 • 4:21 pm CDT

The biotechnology company Oxitec plans to release genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, saying its technology will combat dengue fever, a potentially life-threatening disease mainly transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 41 travel-related cases in Florida during 2020, compared with 71 cases transmitted locally by mosquitoes.

As of May 2021, eight dengue cases and zero Zika virus cases were reported in the USA.

Michael Bonsall, a mathematical biologist at the University of Oxford, is not affiliated with Oxitec, but has collaborated with the company in the past and worked with the World Health Organization to produce a GM mosquito-testing framework, wrote an NCSU article published on April 12, 2021.

Bonsall and other scientists think a combination of approaches is essential to reducing the burden of diseases — and that, maybe, newer ideas like GM mosquitoes should be added to the mix.

Oxitec’s OX5034 mosquitoes are the first GM mosquitoes approved for release in the USA.

Oxitec’s mosquitoes, for instance, are genetically altered to pass what the company calls “self-limiting” genes to their offspring. When released GM males breed with wild female mosquitoes, the resulting generation does not survive into adulthood, reducing the overall population.

Oxitec has been proposing to experimentally release GM mosquitos in the Keys since 2011. Critics say they are concerned about the possible effects GM mosquitoes could have on human health and the environment.

The company has already conducted a trial with the OX5034 mosquitoes in Brazil and released more than a billion of a previous version, called OX513A.

At Oxitec’s laboratory in the U.K., the company genetically engineers the mosquitoes, giving the insects the “self-limiting” gene that makes the females dependent on the antibiotic tetracycline. Without the drug, they will die.

Eggs from these genetically altered mosquitoes —will be shipped to the Keys, which will hatch both male and female insects 

Mosquitoes require water to mature from an egg to an adult; when Oxitec’s team adds water to the boxes the mosquitoes will be deployed in, both GM males and GM females will hatch. With no tetracycline present in the box, the GM females are expected to die in the early larval stages.

The male mosquitoes will survive and carry the gene. When they leave the boxes, the insects will, hypothetically, fly away to mate with wild females to pass the gene to the next wild generation, according to Nathan Rose, head of regulatory affairs at Oxitec.

Skeptics of Oxitec’s GM mosquitoes include local residents, physicians, scientists, and environmental activists. Many of these opponents say they aren’t anti-GMO, but disagree with how the approval process has been handled.

One group has even kept a running list of what it sees as Oxitec’s wrongdoings since it first began experimental releases. The list includes Oxitec’s lack of disease monitoring in the countries where it has released mosquitoes; the unknown price of its technology; and complaints that the company has overstated the success of some of it its trials.

Oxitec has accomplished 100% of the UK government’s “COVID-19 Secure” requirements but has adopted further policies and programs above and beyond government guidance to keep our people safe.

Apr 8, 2021 • 2:39 pm CDT

The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, the University of Texas Medical Branch, an expert team of task force members worldwide, and the World Health Organization have developed a draft Zika virus (ZIKV) Research and Development Roadmap. 

The roadmap is a key component of the WHO’s R&D Blueprint, a global strategy and preparedness plan that allows the activation of R&D activities in advance and during epidemics.

The purpose of the roadmap is to accelerate the development and implementation of effective medical countermeasures for ZIKV to reduce morbidity, mortality, and transmission.

The roadmap identifies the vision, strategic goals, and aligned milestones to develop effective diagnostics, therapeutic agents, and vaccines for ZIKV.

Submit your comments to the team on the draft roadmap using this online form

Mar 18, 2021 • 11:55 am CDT

A previous study published by PNAS stated 'recent epidemics demonstrate the global threat of Zika virus, a flavivirus transmitted by mosquitoes. There are concerns for designing a safe vaccine for the Zika virus because antibodies (Abs) elicited against Zika may also bind flaviviruses that share a similar envelope protein.

If Abs elicited by a Zika vaccine bind but do not effectively neutralize other flaviviruses, they may enhance virus entry into cells through the process of Ab-dependent enhancement of infection, potentially leading to more severe disease.

By directly comparing how mature Zika-neutralizing Abs and their germline precursors bind different flaviviruses, these researchers provide insights into the Ab maturation process and the molecular interactions important for strong, neutralizing binding to Zika versus weak, cross-reactive binding to other flaviviruses.

To better understand the neutralizing Ab response and risk of Ab-dependent enhancement, further information on germline Ab binding to ZIKV and the maturation process that gives rise to potently neutralizing Abs is needed.

This study used binding and structural studies to compare mature and inferred-germline Ab binding to envelope protein domain III of ZIKV and other flaviviruses. It shows that the light-chain variable domain's affinity maturation is important for strong binding of the recurrent VH3-23/VK1-5 neutralizing Abs to ZIKV envelope protein domain III and identify interacting residues that contribute to weak, cross-reactive binding to West Nile virus.

These findings provide insight into the affinity maturation process and potential cross-reactivity of VH3-23/VK1-5 neutralizing Abs, informing precautions for protein-based vaccines designed to elicit germline versions of neutralizing Abs.

Feb 26, 2021 • 1:06 pm CST

The WHO announced the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, the University of Texas Medical Branch, an expert team of task force members worldwide had developed a draft Zika virus (ZIKV) Research and Development (R&D) Roadmap. 

The Roadmap, released on February 17, 2021, is a key component of the WHO’s R&D Blueprint, a global strategy and preparedness plan that allows the activation of R&D activities in advance of and during epidemics.

The purpose of the roadmap is to accelerate the development and implementation of effective medical countermeasures for ZIKV to reduce morbidity, mortality, and transmission. The roadmap identifies the vision, strategic goals, and aligned milestones to develop effective diagnostics, therapeutic agents, and vaccines for ZIKV.

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Feb 23, 2021 • 4:01 pm CST

The South American country of Brazil experienced the greatest impact during the 2015-2016 Zika virus epidemic, with approximately 321,000 suspected or confirmed cases, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Kristina M. Adams Waldorf, M.D., a professor at the University of Washington, told said Healio in January 2021, Zika was likely imported to Brazil during a 2014 World Cup soccer competition the same year. “It took some time for the virus to become established and another period of time for children to be born from infected pregnancies,” commented Dr. Waldorf.

By the end of 2016, there were 22 countries and territories in the Americas reporting cases of congenital syndrome associated with more than 500,000 suspected cases of Zika, reports the PAHO.

The U.S. CDC says, 'There is no current local transmission of Zika virus in the continental USA, including Florida and Texas, which reported local transmission of Zika virus by mosquitoes in 2016-17.'

In California, Zika virus infections have been documented only in people who were infected while traveling to areas with ongoing Zika transmission, through sexual contact with an infected traveler, or through maternal-fetal transmission during pregnancy, says the state health department.

Feb 23, 2021 • 11:23 am CST

The Annuals of Internal Medicine published original research on February 16, 2021, focused on a prophylactic Zika virus vaccine candidate. This study was a Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Phase 1 Study of Ad26.ZIKV.001, an Ad26-Vectored Anti–Zika Virus Vaccine.

This phase 1 study with 100 participants found 'protection against ZIKV challenge was observed after antibody transfer from participants into mice, and MN50 titers correlated with protection in this model.'

These researchers concluded: The safety and immunogenicity profile makes Ad26.ZIKV.001 a promising Zika vaccine candidate for further development if the need reemerges.'

The study was conducted in a nonendemic area, so it did not assess safety and immunogenicity in a flavivirus-exposed population. The primary Funding Source was Janssen Vaccines and Infectious Diseases.

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Dec 3, 2020 • 3:53 pm CST

A recent study published by The Lancet focused on screening blood donations for Zika virus RNA with nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) on April 3, 2016, in Puerto Rico. These researchers followed up with positive donors to assess the dynamics of viral and serological markers during the early stages of Zika virus infection and update the estimate of infection incidence in the Puerto Rican population during the outbreak.

This study estimates that around 21% of Puerto Rico's population was infected during the 2016 outbreak.

Nov 20, 2020 • 6:22 am CST

Why hasn't the Zika virus (ZIKV) disease caused as much devastation in Africa, its continent of origin, as it has in the Americas? Outside of Africa, this flavivirus is transmitted by a ubiquitous mosquito subspecies, Aedes aegypti aegypti.

New experiments published in Science on November 20, 2020, revealed that African mosquitoes transmitted a smaller virus inoculum than the South American insects.

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Nov 17, 2020 • 2:19 am CST

The USA has taken substantial actions to fight against vector-borne diseases such as Zika. During August of 2020, the US Environmental Protection Agency approved a new chemical called nootkatone for use in repellants that could help the world better fight insect-borne diseases.

Nootkatone kills biting pests in a unique way, different from other insecticides already registered by the EPA, including pyrethroids, organophosphates, carbamates, and cyclodienes.

Unlike many other repellents and pesticides, nootkatone is naturally derived and is nontoxic to humans and other mammals. Additionally, nootkatone does not lose its potency after a few hours on the skin like many other naturally derived repellents.

Jay C. Butler, M.D., Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases at the U.S. CDC stated on August 10, 2020: “Providing new alternatives to existing bite-prevention methods paves the way to solving one of biggest challenges in preventing vector-borne diseases—preventing bites.”

Nov 6, 2020 • 4:33 am CST

Although the Zika epidemics in the Americas are now history, the Zika virus may re-emerge “in many countries in silence,” commented Sujan Shresta, Ph.D., a professor at La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI). “We need to develop effective Zika vaccines.”

In a new study published by Science Advances on November 4, 2020, Shresta and her colleagues at LJI report that the immune system’s T cells have the power to prevent Zika infection in mice. This finding suggests that effective Zika vaccines need to activate T cells to work alongside antibodies.

The research team at LJI found that the vaccine strategy could induce a strong immunity against a potentially lethal Zika virus infection by inducing mainly CD8+ T cells, also called “killer” T cells, against the virus. The vaccine also prevented Zika transmission through the placenta from mother to fetus in pregnant mice.

Nov 2, 2020 • 11:06 am CST

Since the emergence in Brazil in 2015, manifestations of Zika virus (ZIKV) infections range from asymptomatic to severe neurological complications, including Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS) in adults and microcephaly in newborns via transplacental transmission, reported a September 17, 2020 study published in The Journal of Travel Medicine.

A recent ZIKV-associated GBS case highlights the ongoing importance of vigilance in residents and travelers to regions with prior ZIKV outbreaks, particularly outside typical arboviral seasons.

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